Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Roger Hodge writes:

On 19 May 1836, less than a month after the Texan Republic won independence from Mexico in the Battle of San Jacinto, a large group of Indians rode up to the gate of Parker’s Fort, near present-day Mexia, east of Waco. The Parker clan had travelled from Illinois to the extremities of the Texas frontier three years earlier, with 30 oxcarts of belongings and a religious zeal that was anything but missionary. In 1835, six of the Parker families, three of whom had received land grants of 4600 acres, had built a heavily fortified cedar stockade that covered an acre of land; it contained six log cabins and four blockhouses, and was laced with gunports. The Parkers had fought Indians in Illinois, Tennessee and Georgia, and they expected to fight them in Texas as well. They probably didn’t realise, however, that their grant from the Mexican government had placed them deep in Comanchería, the area of the South-West controlled by the Comanches, or that the Mexicans intended to use the rapidly growing colonies of English-speaking settlers from the US (known as Anglos) to create a human shield between the Comanches and their traditional raiding grounds further south. It is unlikely the Parkers would have passed up the free land in any case. They were devout and aggressive Baptists who believed that God had empowered them to make the barbarian deserts bloom. ‘The elect are a wrathful people,’ Elder Daniel Parker said, ‘because they are the natural enemies of the non-elect.’

(LRB 15 December 2011)